Version Control with Mercurial

Version control is the lab notebook of the digital world: it’s what professionals use to keep track of what they’ve done and to collaborate with other people. Every large software development project relies on it, and most programmers use it for their small jobs as well. And it isn’t just for software: books, papers, small data sets, and anything that changes over time or needs to be shared can and should be stored in a version control system.

Version control is better than mailing files back and forth because:

Teams are not the only ones to benefit from version control: lone researchers can benefit immensely. Keeping a record of what was changed, when, and why is extremely useful for all researchers if they ever need to come back to the project later on (e.g. a year later, when memory has faded).

This lesson shows how to use a popular open source version control system called Mercurial (also known as hg). It is widely used, both because it’s easy to set up and because of a hosting site called Bitbucket. No matter which version control system you use, the most important thing to learn is not the details of their more obscure commands, but the workflow that they encourage.


Students should understand how to interact with the Unix shell (e.g., how to change their working directory) before beginning this lesson.


Setup Download files required for the lesson
00:00 1. Automated Version Control What is version control and why should I use it?
00:15 2. Configuring Mercurial How do I get set up to use Mercurial?
00:30 3. Creating a Repository Where does Mercurial store information?
00:45 4. Tracking Changes to Files How do I record changes in Mercurial?
How do I check the status of my version control repository?
How do I record notes about what changes I made and why?
01:00 5. Making Changes How can I change files in a repository?
01:15 6. Exploring History How do I review my changes?
How can I recover old versions of files?
01:30 7. Recovering Old Versions How can I recover old versions of files?
01:45 8. Ignoring Things How can I tell Mercurial to ignore files I don’t want to track?
02:00 9. Remote Repositories How can I use Mercurial to store information on other machines?
02:15 10. Working with Clone Repositories How can I make local copies of repositories to work in?
02:30 11. Collaboration How can I control who can see my work?
02:45 12. Merging Changes from Different Clones How do I combine changes made in different repositories?
03:00 13. Merge Conflicts What do I do when my changes conflict with someone else’s?
03:15 14. Open Science How can version control help me make my work more open?
03:30 15. Licensing What licensing information should I include with my work?
03:45 16. Hosting Where should I host my version control repositories?
04:00 Finish

The actual schedule may vary slightly depending on the topics and exercises chosen by the instructor.